Nov 30, 2016 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff WriterThe Wind River Reservation Education Project developed by Wyoming Public Broadcasting Service will be up and running online and ready for use starting Dec. 1.
Wyoming PBS general manager Terry Dugas reported earlier this month at a meeting of the Select Committee on Tribal Relations in Lander that the project was being finalized, with a total of six online videos and 14 lesson plans to be released while two other lesson plans are still in the works.
The project was funded by an $110,000 special budget request from the Wyoming Legislature in 2015. Planning started in the spring of 2015, but active development has been going on for about 18 months, Dugas said.
The money was originally planned to pay for five video segments, five lesson plans and the website, which teachers can use to access the content.
The 42-minute videos are already available on youtube.com/wyomingpbs. Content for teachers will be available on windriveredu.org by the start of the next school semester - Dugas said the site is still under construction.
"The learning objects and lesson plans will also be available to teachers and students nationally through the PBS Learning Media website," he said. "The lesson plans are targeted (for) eighth grade. However, the videos can be used by any grade."
Dugas described it as a "living" website that will continue to grow and become a database of archives for relevant material.
"Should the 'Indian Education for All' bill pass and the Wyoming Department of Education create an online repository of teacher resources, I hope this material becomes part of that website," Dugas said.
The select committee recently passed the American Indian Education Program - formerly known as the Indian Education for All bill - an American Indian-based curriculum for schools in Wyoming. If successfully developed, the curriculum would focus on the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes.
Dugas said four additional videos could be developed using earlier Wyoming PBS productions on Chief Washakie and the Wind River Virtual Museum. These videos and an additional eight lessons plans could be completed by March.
"This is just a part of a foundation of what could be American Indian Studies," Dugas said on Nov. 14 in Lander at the meeting of the select committee. "Each teacher (can) bring their own experience to these videos."
If teachers on the reservation have already developed lessons plans for American Indian education in their classrooms then they can incorporate this material and get new ideas, he noted.
Dugas stressed that the videos and lessons will also be valuable to schools outside Fremont County and the state so others can learn about the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes.
"What we've got here is a beginning," he said. "But it's a beginning that can grow easily."
Michelle Hoffman, the former superintendent at Fremont County School District 14, joined Dugas to help plan and develop the content for the material last year.
The project incorporated the knowledge of Arapaho and Shoshone teachers who also helped provide corrections and recognition of tribal sensitivity.
Hoffman worked with the superintendents on the reservation who recommended recruiting teachers Ann Abeyta, George Abeyta, Lynette St. Clair, Mike Redman, Alberta Oldman, Iva Miss-Redman and Janice Goggles and educational consultants Zedora Enos and John Washakie.
Hoffman said they worked hard to provide the perspectives of each tribe.
"They were so pleased with what they came up with," Hoffman said. "When we started there was a lot of misconception on what it would teach, but our teachers helped us work through that."
The lesson plans are easy to follow, she added, and directions are provided to easily pull the material off of the website.
Sometime after the project started, Dugas said they received feedback regarding the lack of local tribal involvement. After that, they held community forums on the reservation to obtain local input, he said.
Title VII facilitator Celeste Spoonhunter at Fremont County School District 25 said she was eager and excited to be able to use the new material in Riverton, where 22 percent of students are American Indian.
"This is going to help our district immensely," she said.
Dugas noted that the material is not to be used as curriculum but instead, as a resource for teachers. The videos feature several interviews with local people including Sunny Goggles, Scott Ratliff, Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, Darwin St. Clair Jr., Roberta Engavo, Crawford White, Sam Dresser, Ivan Posey, Nelson White and Henry Stamm.
The videos cover different topics including, "Why Teach Native American History?" "Who are the People of the Wind River Reservation?" "Tribal Government on the Wind River Reservation" and "Preserving the Ways- Culture and Traditions."
The videos also highlight four "special places" that are meaningful to tribal members of Wyoming -- the Medicine Wheel, Devil's Tower, Dinwoody Canyon and Bull Lake.
Dugas said the material is a great way to showcase the traditions, history, stories, practices, people, modern life and overall culture of the tribes.
The reservation education project started under the direction of former Wyoming PBS general manager Ruby Calvert who retired before Dugas took over.
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